Caliban and the witch

Sunday 27th of October 2019 from 3.45 pm till 5.15 pm in the downstairs meeting room of the Thistle Hall, on the corner of Cuba & Arthur Streets, Te Aro, Wellington. Please enter by the the grey door on Arthur Street marked Hall Entrance.

“Caliban and the Witch is a history of the development of capitalism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries analyzed from the viewpoint of its impact on women and the reproduction of the work force which in capitalist society becomes “women’s labor.”  It shows that war and enslavement were fundamental conditions of capitalist development  (as they continue to be) and, most important, that capitalist development required and began with a war against women. This war was conducted primarily through the witch-hunts that took place in Europe and America, especially in Peru, leading to the torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of women and to the definition of women as inferior beings: savage, cannibalistic and demonic. In the book I argue that this war against women was rooted in two aspects of capitalism that have remained a structural feature of the capitalist system to our day.”

Silvia Federici (2017)
Silvia Federici talking about feminism today.

Required reading

This session will be convened by Hayley Roud. Please read pages 21 to 50 of the following text before the reading group session.

Federici, S. (2004). Caliban and the witch: Women, the body and primitive accumulation. New York: Autonomedia

Questions to consider

In many ways the Europe of the Middle Ages seems utterly foreign to our lives in 21st century New Zealand. However, despite the obvious differences, from your reading of Federici, were there any similarities with contemporary social life that struck you? You might want to consider the following aspects:

  • The tactics used by Serfs to retain more of their surplus labour
  • The impulse to and methods of existence outside the dominant social structures
  • Divisions within non-noble classes
  • Legislation of reproduction as a response to large scale demographic change